Let’s talk with… Dr. Richard Gale

To build the first European Learner-Centric approach Platform in Europe, LCAMP teamed up with applied research specialists from non-EU Countries, such as Camosun College from Canada.

In this edition of “People in Focus…” we talk with Dr Richard Gale, Director of Camosun Innovates, an advanced manufacturing research and development centre serving the needs of students, faculty, SMEs, NFPs, and the public sector at Camosun College in Victoria BC. and one of the 20 VET colleges participating in LCAMP.

Could you please tell us more about Camosun College’s educational model?

Camosun College campuses sit on the Traditional Territories of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. Located in Victoria, British Columbia (Canada’s west coast) on beautiful Vancouver Island, Camosun provides an exceptional education with small class sizes and flexible programs in a supportive and welcoming community. Each year Camosun welcomes over 1,100 Indigenous students from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit groups, and over 1,700 international students from more than 70 countries. Camosun College is one of more than 140 community colleges in Canada.  “Colleges and institutes offer a range of vocation-oriented programs in a wide variety of professional and technical fields, including business, health, applied arts, technology, and social services.” [https://www.cmec.ca/299/education-in-canada-an-overview/index.html]  Camosun is a fairly typical college, offering a full program of first and second year post-secondary courses leading to certificates and diplomas or providing transfer credits to four year universities, as well as select baccalaureate degrees and specialized offerings designed to address industry needs. 

What brought Camosun College to participate in LCAMP?

Camosun became affiliated with the LCAMP initiative through our participation in the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics Applied Research Affinity Group.  The group brings together representatives from around the world who are committed to integrating applied research into their curriculum.  As we participated in meetings, conference presentations, and even a new publication, it became clear that there were a lot of symmetries between our approach to teaching and interfacing with advanced manufacturing partners and those practiced at schools across the EU.  When we were invited to join the team, we were honoured and eager.

What can LCAMP bring to your organisation? And what do you think Camosun can bring to the European VET centres participating in LCAMP?

The beauty of programs like this one is that it privileges dialogue over monologue.  All of us tend to work in a bubble, focusing so intently on our own students, our own communities, our own challenges that we rarely have the time or the energy to look beyond and learn from the experiences of others.  As a result of that isolation, our most important insights, our most creative innovations, never leave our own institutions. If we are lucky, we are able to share our highs and lows with local peer institutions, sometimes even our national colleagues, and when we do that, we build a collective wisdom that raises the learning of all our students, providing new energy and engagement within and without.  What Camosun hopes to bring to the LCAMP group is Canadian experience and experimentation, new perspectives and old traditions that rarely make it beyond regional borders let alone national ones.  Likewise, we hope to learn from the collective knowledge and expertise of all our LCAMP colleagues, and their colleagues, and their regions, and their nations.  I once worked with a brilliant academic named Lee Shulman who said that teaching and learning should always be treated as community property, shared between practitioners and made better through interaction and shared examination.  That’s what LCAMP is all about … sharing what we know, and creating things that we could never have known alone. 

How are Advanced Manufacturing companies involved in the teaching process at your school?

All our programs create and regularly review their curriculum in collaboration with professional advisory committees, groups of local and regional industry experts who provide information about the state of the field, the expectations of the workplace, and the innovations for the future.  All our teachers come to us from industry, and many of them share their time between the classroom and the shop floor.  All our trades programming include workplace training, and our engineering programs include capstone courses where teams of students solve industry problems brought to them by local companies. 

LCAMP is built around a learner-centric approach, how would you describe a learner-centric approach with your own words?

The most prevalent teaching and learning approaches of the 19th and 20th centuries were content-centric or teacher-centric, privileging the gathering and replicating of established knowledge, often transferred directly from a teacher to a student, or a master to an apprentice.  As a result, teachers were charged with “covering” material and students were judged based on their ability to receive and replicate the content to which they were exposed.   It was what made standardized testing seem like a good idea, because it used standardized knowledge and resulted in standardized citizens.  Now we know better.  We understand that the goal of education is not conformity but autonomy.  Learner-centric education puts the student at the heart of the academic enterprise, acknowledging that every learner has agency, and that all learning should come from student intentionality.  It values the history and experience and voice that each student brings to learning and celebrates the opportunity to engage with not only the what and the how of education, but the why and the so what. 

We at LCAMP are not interested in training manufacturing automatons that will perform pre-determined tasks and replicate prescribed social and economic roles; instead we are striving to build a new kind of manufacturing education that celebrates the critical perspectives and creative acumen of our students, asking them to not only learn from a curriculum, but contribute to it, critique it, and confound it for the benefit of the learner, the teacher, the industry, and the society.

If you could advise a learner who is about to join the labour market, what would you advise?

The most valued workers are those who can think for themselves, see the big picture, critically analyse both process and outcome, and above all communicate effectively to their colleagues, their supervisors, and their clients/customers.  And remember that we spend most of our lives working, so choose a career and a pathway that will bring you joy.

About “People in focus”

Meet LCAMP partners

In this section, we put forward the human-centric approach to the LCAMP project. Through talks with industry representatives, learners, teachers & trainers, academics & researchers and public authorities – local, regional and European levels-, we will discuss the Advanced Manufacturing sector’s future from their perspectives.